Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Unfriending" People

Today is Saturday, July 27, 2013.

"The less you respond to rude, critical, argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become."   -Author unknown

It's true, whether you are attending a party, sitting in a meeting, or participating on social media, you can limit the amount of stress caused by discord in your life if you will only stop responding to people who don't know how to stop arguing.   Recently, three of my friends have found it necessary to "unfriend" someone on Facebook because the person simply would not stop arguing, and their comments were not only negative, but also rude, insulting, or even racist.   All three people felt that badly about crossing the person off their lists.  (The person who was unfriended was different in each case.) 

Why do we allow people to argue with us, ad nauseam?

Educated folks like to think of themselves as open-minded, and because of this, they are OK with allowing others to present their opinions in their homes and on their Facebook pages.  Generally speaking, this is a good thing.  The problem is when one person keeps on arguing until (ideally, anyway,) everyone in the room or on the discussion thread agrees with him.   These people seem to think that if they can just manage to explain their ideas clearly, other people will come over to their way of thinking, given the supreme logic of their argument.  Often, they will accuse those who oppose them of not understanding.  I don't know about you, but I've been guilty of this, myself, a few times.  

Some people feel that it's important to "fight the good fight" and "stand up for their beliefs," which is all well and good, but for every belief you argue for, someone will argue against it, and for every side you take in an argument, someone will take the other side.  Some people just want to be free to say what they like, which is also well and good, but it's worth asking ourselves what this actually accomplishes.  When we are stating our opinion, aren't we really just starting an argument?  Aren't we really trying to convince others to see things the way we do?  If we really believe we aren't trying to convince others, then wouldn't it be just as well to keep our opinions to ourselves? 

Whenever there is controversy, "the facts" are not the only things to consider. People differ in their interpretation of the facts, or in their conclusions based on the facts.  They also carry with them prior attitudes, beliefs, and opinions, with which they judge the facts.  Rarely do two people see the same thing in the very same way.  People form their own conclusions, and it is actually very rare for a person to stay "on the fence" for very long. Most people don't change their minds during arguments, either.  When we engage in an argument, it is very rare for a person to actually "win" the argument.  What usually happens is that one person talks until the others get tired of him (or her) and walk away, or just stop responding.  People generally come away from arguments even more set in their beliefs than before. 

All of this makes life pretty stressful every four years here in the United States, where political campaigns rev up over a year before election time.  These days, politics isn't the only thing we argue about.  We also take sides on social issues, civil rights issues, gun control, healthcare, the economy, immigration reform, and science.   These days, the arguments have spilled out of our living rooms, meeting rooms, and bars, to social media on the Internet.  When we can't walk away physically, we "unfriend" people in self defense.  

I guess it beats shooting them in cold blood.  :-/

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